MIDDLETON, N.S. - Tears welled up in the eyes of the coach and players alike as the West Hants Middle School’s girls’ soccer squad drifted the ball to the back of the opposing team’s net for one last time this season.
The occasion – winning regionals – was cause for celebration on many levels.
Ecstatic teammates swarmed goal-scorer Autumn Fletcher, who netted the lone marker in the hotly contested regional final against the Northeast Kings Education Centre (NKEC) during the second half of sudden-death overtime play at Middleton Regional High School Oct. 30.
“I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of something that exciting as a coach. I had tears in my eyes and I didn’t expect that. Our goal scorer was crying and our goalie was so excited, and she got swarmed by our team,” said WHMS coach Jody Isenor.
“It was a really awesome end to a great season.”
Elizabeth Tremblay recorded the shutout in what is now considered a highlight reel match at the Hants County-based middle school.
“They sort of made history at West Hants Middle School, so they’re pretty excited,” said Isenor, who noted that the win marks the first time a WHMS girls’ soccer team brought home the sought-after regional banner.
“That’s what their focus has been.”
West Hants, undefeated in season play, would first be tested by the hosting Middleton team in semifinal play. The teams were tied 1-1 at half in what Isenor describes as a “really, really close battle.”
WHMS would ultimately score the game-winning goal midway through the second half to advance to the final against NKEC.
“They had a really, really good defender and we found it tough to get opportunities, so we were lucky to get that second goal,” recalls Isenor, reflecting on the 2-1 victory.
The nail-biter championship match ended with no goals scored in regulation time.
“We had lots of chances but their goalie was awesome and stood on her head, and then we went into overtime,” said Isenor, noting that the teams played three times during the regular season and every match was a close game.
As the coach of a middle school team, Isenor admits that the thought of playing teams with Grade 9s was worrisome leading up to regionals. But age proved to be merely a number when the players took the field.
“One of the best things about the team is they’re are very unselfish. They pass to open players,” she said.
“We had a really strong defensive line. We only had three goals scored against us the entire season – that’s pretty unreal.”
She said either team could have won the championship, with both squads fielding players involved with Valley United programs and working hard for the win.
“The game easily could have gone either way.”
She attributes the Brooklyn-based school’s championship win in overtime to hard work and a team effort that required contributions from every player on the pitch.
“It was a perfect ending to that special season. The way that the game was won - and the girls’ reaction - was fantastic,” said Isenor.
“I’ve never been a part of an undefeated season like that.”